Naval Station Norfolk and City of Norfolk Kick Off Year Long Centennial Celebration
NORFOLK, VA - The world’s largest Naval Station, Naval Station Norfolk is officially turning 100 years old and will spend the year highlighting the installation’s rich history and impact it has had on Hampton Roads, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Nation.
Last night the installation celebrated its pre-Navy beginnings with the Jamestown Exposition and has multiple events planned throughout the year. They will host a throw-back softball game in June celebrating and highlighting the historic McClure Field and the 1943 Navy World Series. In July they will be holding an aerial demonstration event highlighting Chambers Field and then commence the year showcasing modern day Naval Station Norfolk with Fleet Fest on October 21.
The year’s festivities will also look to the future of the Naval Station.
“Just as important as highlighting the past, we also look into the future,” said Captain Doug Beaver, Naval Station Norfolk Commanding Officer. “The centennial kicks off a second century of Naval Station Norfolk’s exceptional service to the fleet, fighter and family.”
The City of Norfolk is also planning a year full of celebrations for the base’s 100th anniversary. Leading the effort is the Naval Station Norfolk Centennial Commission which City Council in September 2016.
“I cannot thank Mayor Alexander and the City of Norfolk enough for going “all in” with the establishment of a Centennial commission that has aligned and synchronized our collective efforts this year,” said Beaver. “It’s a testament to the strong bond that continues between the Navy and Norfolk.”
More than 30 events throughout the year will honor and celebrate Naval Station’s 100th Anniversary. The 41st Harborfest along Norfolk’s downtown waterfront will be the signature event. The festivities will create a “homecoming” for those who have ever served at Naval Station Norfolk
"We are very excited for the centennial celebration of Naval Station Norfolk. A series of diverse events have been planned that will appeal to everyone,” said Mayor Kenneth Alexander, City of Norfolk Mayor. “I wish to thank our commission and the members of Team Norfolk who will continue to work hard to make this celebration memorable"
The land on which Naval Station Norfolk is located was originally the site of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition. During this exposition, high-ranking naval officers were consulted and favored the idea that this site was ideal for a naval base. A bill was passed in 1908 proposing that Congress appropriate $1 million for the purchase of the property and buildings, but it died when the Assistant Secretary of the Navy was given a choice between this property or a new coal ship. He replied that a new ship was an absolute necessity.
Immediately after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the Secretary of the Navy was persuaded to buy the property. A bill was passed for the purchase of 474 acres. It also set aside the sum of $1.6 million for development of the base, including piers, aviation facilities, storehouses, facilities for fuel, oil storage, a recruit training station, a submarine base and recreation areas for fleet personnel. The next six months saw the establishment of the Fifth Naval Headquarters, the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Naval Training Station Naval Hospital, and Submarine Station. By Armistice Day, 1918, there were 34,000 enlisted men at the base.
An airfield for seaplanes was established at the Naval Operating Base in October 1917. In August 1918 it was detached from NOB and became Naval Air Station (NAS) Hampton Roads. It was renamed NAS Norfolk in July 1921.
During WW I the Navy concluded that the available land was insufficient. It was decided to fill a large part of the flats on the west and north by dredging the Elizabeth River to a depth sufficient for large ships to dock at NOB. During the fall and winter of 1917, approximately eight million cubic yards was dredged, moving the northern shoreline from along Dillingham Boulevard to approximately its current location.
During the late thirties and early forties, much construction took place at the Naval Operating Base and Naval Air Station as war loomed on the horizon. New buildings and piers were constructed and new runways, hangars, and ramps were constructed for the large landplanes and seaplanes flown by the Navy in World War II. In December 1942, recruit training at the base was discontinued in order to focus on advanced training for men going directly to the fleet.
The Naval Operating Base and Naval Air Station, then collectively referred to as Naval Base Norfolk continued their significant role as the home of the Atlantic Fleet after World War II. In January 1953, Naval Operating Base Norfolk was renamed Naval Station Norfolk as part of a Navy effort to standardize base names. On February 5, 1999, NAS Norfolk was disestablished and Chambers Field became part of Naval Station Norfolk.
The station covers 6,200 acres plus outlying properties and contains more than 600 significant facilities and 326 tenant commands. Naval Station Norfolk has 13 piers and an 8,000-foot airfield,
supporting more than 59 ships and more than 187 aircraft and 18 squadrons. The Naval Station employs more than 116,600 personnel to include military and civilian personnel. The economic impact of the Navy in Hampton Roads is significant. The annual payroll is approximately $9.2 billion dollars.
Sailors who call Naval Station Norfolk home continue to support missions abroad, such as the Global War on Terror, and many other operations such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.